As soon as you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, escaping the city and heading towards Northern Thailand is not a bad idea. Located around 700kms up North is a town called Chiang Mai. Known as a big cultural hub where tourists, locals, digital nomads meet. Given its popularity, there’s a variety of ways on how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Flying to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
After you’re done exploring some of the sights in Bangkok and Pattaya, moving towards Northern Thailand is usually the next part of every traveler’s itinerary. If you don’t have a lot of time, catching a flight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is your best option. Chiang Mai International airport is a mere 10-minute drive from the city center. Depending on when you book, flights can vary in price. In fact, if you book ahead of time, sometimes you can get pretty sweet deals.
If you are thinking of taking an International flight directly to Chiang Mai, expect a short layover in Bangkok as most flights regularly stop there before flying to the North. Sometimes, even if you’re traveling on a budget, it pays to spend a few minutes checking flights as often, they’re almost the same price or just a little bit more than a train ticket.
Airlines that fly to Chiang Mai
- Air Mandalay
- Bangkok Airways
- China Airlines
- Lao Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Silk Air
- Thai AirAsia
- Thai Airways International
- Nok Air (You can pay for Nok Air Flights in some 711 stores!)
- SGA Air
Cost: Anything from $15-100 depending on how early you book
Trip length: 1 hour 10 minutes
Insider Tip: Before you book anything, make sure that you double check your baggage allowance. A lot of the budget carriers have baggage restrictions so double check before booking your flight.
Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is actually one of the most popular travel routes in the country. You have two options if you are traveling by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You can either take a day train which is somewhat cheaper, or you can opt to take the night train. Either way, traveling by train gives you a real feel of Thailand.
It’s a great way to interact with locals while seeing the countryside. The day train can get a little bit boring which is why we recommend doing the night train. Not only do you make the most out of your day, you also get to save money on accommodations that night. While it’s not a huge deal, saving a few bucks here and there only means more pad thai and khao soi’s when you get to Chiang Mai!
If you’re wondering how much money we’re talking about, check out this guide on Chiang Mai travel costs to get a better idea of how much you’ll need.
If you do the sleeper train, get out of your bunk and go to watch the sunrise from the other carts-the view of the country side is pretty beautiful. You have different options on the sleeper train, with seats varying from 3rd class wooden seats all the way to 1st class with air-conditioned bunks.
The choice is really yours! They sell food and drinks on the train but you might want to bring some snacks yourself as the food they sell on board is pricier than usual. There are about six trains that leave from Bangkok to Chiang Mai running from around 8.30am till 10.00pm. Likewise, there are at least six trains daily from Chiang Mai to Bangkok from 6.30am till 9.00pm.
How to Buy Train Tickets in Thailand
Nowadays, all long-distance express trains require a reservation, which can be made on the day of travel or up to 60 days in advance. Reservations are now computerized, and the booking office at any main station can reserve seats or berths for any journey in Thailand. Please take note that a passport is now needed to book any train journey. It is also useful to know that they have a special ticket office in the Hualamphon Station just for foreigners. They have staff who speak English and they also accept credit cards! Combo tickets to the islands are also available from here. You can also reserve a ticket via phone but you need to pick it up within 24 hours. We have personally never done this so I’m not sure exactly how it works!
Cost: The prices vary with the cheapest option, the 3rd class going for 271 baht ($7) all the way to about 1500 baht ($40) for the 1st class sleeper train. To find out more about the train schedules, check out The Man from Seat 61.
Trip Length: 11-15 hours (Thai trains tend to run late)
Riding the Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
After traveling most of Southeast Asia, I have come to the conclusion that long bus rides are part of the experience. Don’t worry as they trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is honestly not that bad. (The longest bus trip I’ve done was close to 30 hours, so trust me-I know what I’m talking about!) Overall, the buses are fairly safe, punctual, and very affordable. You can book these bus trips from almost any tour agency in Bangkok. If you are staying anywhere near Khao San Road, you won’t run out of options. Alternatively, you can book online with Bookaway.
The prices between all the agencies vary so best to walk and canvas around. You need to book at least a day in advance to avoid any inconveniences. If you don’t want to take the bus from Khao San Road, you can also take a Deluxe bus from Mo Chit Terminal. These buses often have a bus stewardess that will give you a snack and a bottle of water for your journey. A lot of tour agencies try to upsell you to get the VIP or deluxe bus-but really, they just put you on a regular one.
Insider Tip: Always keep your valuables with you at all times. There is a lot of theft that goes on in the buses (some bus attendants climb in and take your valuables while the bus is moving). To avoid this, make sure that you have your valuables close to you and that you take the time to lock your bags. A few padlocks and extra precautions will definitely turn off thieves as it often takes too much effort to try to open it.
Cost: Price varies from 200-600 baht ($6-$16) depending if it is a fan or an air-conditioned bus.
Trip Length: 11 hours
So, whether you’re flying, taking a bus, or taking the train, do make time to head up to Chiang Mai because it is awesome. There are lots to do, things to see, and food to eat! If you’re looking for a different experience, you can also try getting a Sak Yant in Chiang Mai which is a traditional tattoo done by monks. So what are you waiting for?